Making a Grey Taffeta Hat

We’re onto the final post about my Ana de Mendoza costume! This piece of the costume was the most time consuming, but it ended up being my favorite part so I think the effort was worth it.

In the painting this costume is based off of Ana is seen wearing a large hat – I tried to research women’s hats of this style from the 16th century but came up with very little information. So I decided to make it up! Sometimes I’m all about research, and I’ll try to read as many blogs and books as I can find before taking on a project. But for this one I was a little impatient, and I wanted to skip that part and get straight to it. So I did. How hard can making a hat be?

I started by drafting a pattern. I made mine a circle at first, then realized it should probably be more of an oval shape. So I trimmed the sides of the brim and crown to make them slightly less circular.

It took me a few tries but eventually I came to a size I liked. Looking back I would have made the crown slightly smaller (maybe by a half inch) so it would have more of a tapered profile, but i’m pretty happy with how this pattern worked.

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Then I cut all the pieces out from fusible felt interfacing. I chose this because i’m still out of buckram, and this stuff is available at Joanns. Buckram has to be ordered online and I was far too impatient for that!

I didn’t need the felt to be fusible, but it’s the same price as non-fusible felt interfacing and the glue makes it a bit stiffer. I figured that would be a good thing when making a hat of this size.

I originally added seam allowances to the crown and brim. I figured I could clip these the way you would a curved seam and have them tuck into each other, which would add stability to the hat. I did something similar when making my buckram bonnet and it worked really well. But this material is way thicker than buckram, and this technique would prevent the crown from fitting in place, so I trimmed the seam allowance off.

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Then I sewed on the wire! It went around the edge of the crown and brim. I felt like the brim was really floppy still, so I added another piece two inches away from the first one. This was all whip stitched in place by hand, with heavy duty upholstery thread.

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The felt doesn’t have a very nice texture, and I was worried it would show through the polyester taffeta I wanted to cover it with. So I placed a layer of flannel between the taffeta and felt. This added a LOT of weight to the hat, but I think it improved the appearance a lot as well.

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I used binder clips to hold the fabric in place while I was sewing around the edges.

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I repeated this process for all the other pieces as well. The crown was harder to cover because it’s smaller, I managed to do it but it sure doesn’t look pretty on the inside!

Then all the pieces were sewn together, which was not an easy task. My fingers did not appreciate the struggle this involved.

After an hour I had a hat! It’s rough around the edges (literally, the edges are really rough) but I was pleased with it. I got to try it on for the first time and luckily the proportions were perfect – it doesn’t really resemble the one in the painting, but that’s ok. I like the shape and size of my creation better.
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I didn’t take photos of this part earlier, but once the taffeta was sewn onto the top side of the brim, I stitched a printed denim on the inside to serve as lining. This was right by the cutting counter and caught my eye. I bought a yard and a half because I liked it so much. Even though you don’t really see it when the hat is worn, I like that this adds a bit of texture.

Here you can see how messy the interior looks, It took a lot of thread to make it look smooth from the outside…

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When I was sewing the pieces together I noticed something kind of bad. There was so much tension on the polyester taffeta that every stitch binding the pieces together caused little tears in the fabric, which revealed dots of red flannel beneath it. Probably not bad enough that anyone else would notice, but I couldn’t stand it!

So I cut strips of wool suiting, which doesn’t fray, and wrapped those around the edges.

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It got sewn down. My fingers were once again, upset by this process, but that’s okay.

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Here is a photo of it worn! It doesn’t fit on my head that well, but I can walk without it moving around. I think a hat like this is more for decorative purposes than anything else, as shown by the way Ana’s is precariously balanced on top of her hairstyle in the painting.

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I liked how the wool trim looked better than the tiny tears, but from the top of the hat it was a little puckery. So I hid that with a bit of braided blue trim.

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Then I made a matching sash out of silk chiffon. The sash on the top is for the hat, the two smaller ones were ties I made for the sleeves. All of these had the edges carefully turned over and sewn down by hand. No easy task when working with small strips of bias cut silk chiffon!

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I tied that around my hat and into a big bow. Then the top and bottom portions were stitched down so it won’t be going anywhere.

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I lined the interior with white cotton gauze, but I extended my lining too far out and it was visible when the hat was worn. So I sewed a three quarter inch wide strip of wool around the cotton, which hid this.

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Now it was time for embellishments! And feathers! I bought four white ostrich feathers from Joanns and a pack of spiky black geese feathers.

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I glued them down in an arrangement I liked. On the left side, which doesn’t have a bow, I hid the ugly bases of the feathers with a bunch of light grey fake pearls.

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And that’s it for my beautiful hat! I really love this thing. It’s made me realize how much headpieces complete historical ensembles, and how they can really bring to life a simple costume. I consider millinery to be a little bit out of my skill set and it seems intimidating to learn. But the fact I figured out the process of making this on my own, even without research, has been a big motivator for me.

I have a few costumes coming up that should be worn with hats, bonnets, and a 15th century hennin. I think i’ll put the effort into making them all, and hopefully be happier with the finished costumes.

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I also made an eyepatch for this ensemble. I used a sticky note for a pattern and scraps of the fusible interfacing for a base. This eyepatch has a very specific shape, with a sharply pointed bottom. I think I spent longer trying to pattern/shape this than I did on the hat! I wanted it to be perfect.

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I ironed the damask print denim onto one side, then tucked all the edges over and sewed them down. I was originally going to use cotton as a backing, but I switched to black wool suiting since I figured the white gauze might be visible.

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I sewed some coated black cord overtop and it was done!

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And that’s it for this costume. I’m so pleased with it. I think this might be my favorite costume that i’ve made this year. I was so determined to spend months making costumes I’m really proud of, but so far I like my week long projects a lot more than the ones that took months. Funny how that works out, huh?

If you want to see this in motion I filmed a short video on it (it really didn’t come out how I intended, but I know some people might prefer it to photos) which can be watched here.

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And that’s it! Thank you for reading!

Making a Grey Taffeta Kirtle

This is another project that came out of nowhere. I was about to go to bed and thought “I should make a dress based off that painting  pinned on pinterest a few months ago”.  I wrote the idea down so I wouldn’t forget in the morning, and seventy two hours later I had a dress!

This dress is actually an ensemble that consists of a kirtle, undershirt, hat, and eyepatch – that last one might sound a little odd, but it will make sense in a minute. I based this costume off of this painting, it isn’t the most exciting painting or costume but I thought it was very striking when I first saw it, and it’s obviously stuck with me. The subject of that painting is Ana de Mendoza who was a countess, duchess, princess, and prisoner at various points of her life. She wore an eyepatch after an injury left her blind in one eye (she may have lost the eye as well – sources disagree).

She has far more elaborate costumes shown in other paintings, but I decided on this one. I love the hat, the color scheme, and the simplicity to it. Plus I could make it (almost) entirely out of things I already owned, the only thing I had to buy were materials (interfacing, denim, and feathers) for the hat!

Today I’ll be showing how I made the most major piece of this costume (but not the most striking – i’d say that award goes to the hat) which is the kirtle. I made this from six yards of polyester taffeta which I got in NYC at the beginning of last year. It was four dollars a yard and is dark grey in color.

I decided to make this kirtle the “proper” way with stiffening in the bodice. My last kirtle (made for my tudor project) didn’t have any structure, instead it was worn over a pair of bodies. That led to problems later on and I didn’t want to make the same mistake this time!

I used an altered version of Norah Waugh’s bodies pattern. I made the basque waist wider and shorter, lowered the neckline, lengthened the straps, and took it in slightly. I cut the altered pattern out from canvas, which will be the base layer of the bodice.

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I marked out all the boning channels and backed the fabric with cotton. Then I stitched all the channels and filled them with quarter inch wide plastic boning.

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I pinned taffeta over both pieces. The curves got clipped and folded over the edges, then whip stitched down. This was really hard, taffeta does not have a lot of give to it and it did not want to go around those curves.

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The interiors looked like this! The cotton layer was just to back the boning channels, so a lot of it got cut away to remove bulk.

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Then I pinned a thin muslin layer to the interior, which will function as lining. I sewed this in with a whip stitch as well. But I used black thread for this, so it didn’t end up looking very pretty on the inside.

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I decided I couldn’t stand how puckery the taffeta looked around the the arm holes, but at this point there was’t a lot I could do without ripping everything apart. So I cut strips of wool and sewed those over the arm holes. I think this looks quite nice, even though I doubt it’s historically accurate.

I also bound the pieces together instead of sewing them with seams. I did this because it worked better this the pattern and reduced bulk at the shoulder, which is always good!

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I also started sewing the eyelets on the back side seam.

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Here you can see the lining job I did (I told you it’s ugly) and how the bound edges look from the interior.

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I stitched a gathered strip of lace around the neckline. Historically this would be attached to the chemise, but it’s such a pain to get the lace of an undershirt lined up with a boned bodice and I wanted to avoid the struggle. So I sewed it directly onto the bodice.

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Then I added the pearls. These were once again, something I already had around. I bought these from my red and silver “Renaissance” gown (aka my totally un-researched slapped together costume that had a sleeve fall off during a photoshoot) but never used them. I sewed these around the shoulder of the bodice but didn’t put them on the back, since the wig would likely get tangled in them.

You can also see how my eyelets progressed!

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For the center point, where the strands of pearls join, I put a brooch. I bought this for my birthday last year, It was a total $2.24 on ebay and suits this costume perfectly.

And when I say “perfectly” I mean it looks really pretty, not perfect from an accuracy standpoint.

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With that attached, the bodice was complete and it was time for the skirt! I actually made and cut this skirt out in the middle of the night, so my photos are lackluster at best and nonexistent at worst. But here is my skirt “pattern” there are six panels which get progressively longer towards the back. Once they were all cut out and sewn together I cut the hem into an arched shape instead of the blocky/triangular one this pattern creates.

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Two of the panels cut out…

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And those are all the photos I have of the skirt being cut out. I told you it was bad! But you can probably imagine the rest, they all got sewn together with the wrong sides facing each other, then the seams were trimmed down to a quarter inch and sewn into french seams.

After the hem was shaped I folded the edge over by a half inch and basted it down.

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Then the hem was brought up by an inch and a half and pinned in place.

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I sewed it down with a cross stitch.

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I knife pleated the top of the skirt down to twenty five inches.

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After I sewed across the pleats I pinned the skirt to the bodice. Then I cut a seven inch slit in the skirt, which continues down from the opening in the side back of the bodice. To finish the edge I used more strips of wool.

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All that got sewn on, then I pinned a strip of one inch wide bias tape over the frayed edge on the interior of the bodice. I stitched that down and it was done!

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Isn’t it pretty?

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I’m very happy with it! I was going to wait until Friday to post worn photos but here is a sneaky one since i’m eager to share!

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Thank you for reading!